Maria Askew Q&A - MA in Theatre for Community and Education

Maria Askew is an award winning theatre director, performing artist and educator. Maria is artistic director of Superbolt Theatre, a collaborative theatre company that creates and performs original work for intergenerational audiences. She is head of Mountview’s MA in Theatre for Community and Education.

“The arts have a vital role to play in shaping a more joyful, caring and interconnected world”

Why is this MA important right now?

Angela Davis once said, “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” I love this quote because it challenges us to dream big.

We are living through times of uncertainty and change as we struggle to resolve the global issues facing our world today. Many people are experiencing moments of fear, isolation and division. The arts have a vital role to play in shaping a more joyful, caring and interconnected world. I see theatre as a vehicle for imagining new possibilities, a way of coming together to create and transform.

Theatre is an important tool for education and community building, which is the focus of this MA. Theatre builds confidence and creativity, it reminds us of what we have in common, and is a great way to entertain and inspire people.

This MA is brand new and so is responding directly to the needs of our times as they are unfolding. It will be taught by a team of excellent practitioners, who will each offer unique insights into the role of arts in education, equality, wellbeing, movement, music, drama therapy and social transformation.

It will set participants on a career path that uses theatre for community and education purposes, be it in schools, prisons, hospitals, conflict zones or elsewhere. This MA will be a place for experimentation and play, within a community of passionate thinkers and doers. It will mix theory with practice, and encourage self-reflection as well as group collaboration. I cannot wait for students to get going!

Tell us a bit about your journey and career in the performing arts.

I have worked internationally as a director, writer, performer and facilitator for the past ten years.

My interest in theatre began when I was about 10 years old, and growing up I was always busy with youth theatre and school performances. After school, I studied at Warwick University where I became fascinated by social, political and intercultural forms of theatre. I then decided to train at Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris, where I honed my craft as a theatre maker. Following this I became a co-founder of Superbolt Theatre. With Superbolt, I have developed my own work and toured to festivals, theatre venues and schools around the world.

As a workshop facilitator, I work regularly with refugee and asylum seekers, NHS healthcare professionals and with school, college and university students. In order to get to grips with a lot of the difficulties I have witnessed through my work, I decided to study a part time MSc in International Politics at SOAS. This has been hugely helpful in supporting my practice as it has given me a deeper and more nuanced understanding of underlying power structures and historical processes that shape the inequalities of today.

“This MA is brand new and so is responding directly to the needs of our times as they are unfolding.”

Are you working on a particular creative project right now?

Right now we are in Covid-19 lockdown, so many of my creative projects have been postponed. This has given me a chance to explore the relationship between arts and technology, and I am currently working on ways to run group workshops online. I am also teaching performance techniques to secondary students via webcam. I am intrigued by the ways technology can facilitate live and interactive theatrical experiences.

“Being in isolation has reminded me of how much we need each other.”

Being in isolation has reminded me of how much we need each other. I have been looking back at a short performance piece I created last year with an artist in Brazil, made entirely through Skype. The piece was made for Papaya Fest, an Anglo-Latinx theatre festival in Bristol. We ended up with a multilingual performance that used theatre, dance, music and video. Through this online collaboration that culminated in a physical performance, we shared something special and got to know each other in an unusual way. Technology can be a great tool to make art and friendships beyond borders and I am looking forward to engaging with more projects like this.

Read more about Mountview’s MA in Theatre for Community and Education.